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Police warn against deadly new street drug W-18

From Radio Canada International:

W-18 is a synthetic opioid considered to be 10,000 times more powerful than morphine and 100 time stronger than fentanyl—a street drug which caused about 270 overdose deaths last year in the province of Alberta alone.

Four kilograms of a white powder seized by police in the Edmonton area in December 2015 was analysed and turns out to be W-18, a drug that is not yet a controlled substance in Canada.

The quantity is enough to produce millions of tablets, say police. Minute amounts can be deadly. Police are concerned that illicit labs creating tablets may not cut the drug properly and that overdoses will result.

Hospitals have been warned to be on the lookout for drug overdoses and deaths that might be linked to W-18. Dr. Laura Calhoun of the government of Alberta health service joined with police to warn the public: “Our message to the public is this: no matter what drug you use, fentanyl or W-18 may be hiding in it, and they may kill you.”

New synthetic drug shows up on streets of Northeast Ohio

From newsnet5 (Cleveland):

There is new drug is on the streets of Northeast Ohio and it can be deadly.

In fact, an overdose death in Lake County is believed to be the first in the state, said Doug Rohde, supervisor of Chemistry and Toxicology at the Lake County Crime Laboratory.

After an alert from Lorain County about a new drug and some more research Rohde discovered it was U-47700. It is a new opioid that is eight times more potent than morphine. It is also deadly. U-47700 is to blame for the deaths of 20 people in 9 states.

The synthetic opioid is so new that it has not yet been labeled illegal. But, Rohde said just because it is still legal does not mean that it is safe.

Cheap Blood Pressure Medication Could Help Alcoholics

From The American Council on Science and Health (ACSH):

Unhealthy alcohol use is unfortunately very prevalent, not just here in the United States, but worldwide. It is estimated that 3.8 percent of all worldwide deaths are attributable to alcohol addiction.

Despite alcohol’s significant contribution to morbidity and mortality, there is still a paucity of effective treatments available for individuals suffering from alcoholism. New research, however, provides a glimmer of hope. A recently published study in the journal Addiction Biology, the Journal of the Society for the Study of Addiction, researchers believe that the drug pindolol, a relatively cheap blood pressure medication, has been shown to be effective in preclinical trials.

“Drugs currently used for AUDs (alcohol use disorders) – acamprosate, naltrexone and disulfiram – have limited success, so this is a ground-breaking development with enormous potential,” stated Selena Bartlett, a professor of neuroscience from Queensland Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation. “In an internationally-significant breakthrough, our study showed pindolol was able to reduce ethanol/alcohol consumption, particularly in relation to binge drinking, a key behavior observed in human alcohol dependence.”


Posted: 4/15/2016 11:48:00 AM

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Synthetic opiate makers stay step ahead of US drug laws as overdose cases rise

From The Guardian:

W-18 is one of thousands of synthetic opiates that is not scheduled as a controlled substance and thus not subject to criminal drug penalties, and one of a handful of drugs that law enforcement officials and scientists say they have seen in increasing numbers in the last six months, as use, abuse and overdose deaths continues to rise.

Another, U-47700, which is seven to eight times stronger than morphine, has been the source of overdoses over the past year in at least 10 states since the first US incident was discovered in Knoxville, Tennessee, in June 2015.

Barry Logan, the executive director for the Center of Forensic Science and Education, said his lab has been able to track down 17 overdose cases of U-47700. And several other overdose deaths and hospitalizations have been identified by local law enforcement in Florida and northern Texas.

The uptick in overdoses and drug seizures involving opiates like W-18 and U-47700 follows actions taken by the Chinese government to criminalize more than 100 chemicals on 1 October 2015, according to Bare.

Once more traditional synthetic drugs were outlawed, chemists looked to more novel substances instead.

The banned chemicals included the makings of acetyl fentanyl, an illicit version or analogue of the powerful prescription painkiller fentanyl that is drastically exacerbating the opioid epidemic in the US. Flakka, a cathinone similar to bath salts, was also banned.

Logan said chemists are finding the recipes for these drugs from research books from the 1970s, when scientists were trying to invent alternatives to morphine.

“In order to find one drug like that you have to test hundreds of them,” said Logan. The result is that there are thousands of variations of research opiates, most of which were never meant to be tried on humans.
 

An effort to get Ecstasy FDA-approved is moving right along

From Tech Insider:

After veteran Tony Macie came back from Iraq in 2007, he was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Macie went to the VA "on and off" and tried the standard therapy.

"And then I kind of just fell off the radar, secluded, and did my own thing and got really dependent on a lot of the meds," Macie explains in a video by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS).

The retired sergeant then became part of a clinical trial organized by MAPS that was testing an unusual substance in an attempt to heal people with who hadn't responded to traditional therapies for PTSD.

That substance, MDMA (commonly referred to as "Molly"), is the pure form of the illegal party drug known as ecstasy. (Most non-research substances that are sold as ecstasy or Molly are not actually pure MDMA and can be significantly more dangerous.) The trial pairs MDMA with psychotherapy.

One of the early studies conducted by MAPS showed that 83% of the study participants no longer showed signs of PTSD two months after treatment, and long-term follow-ups conducted an average of four years later showed that most of those benefits stuck.

Though small and preliminary, the results were encouraging enough to help lead to Phase 2 clinical trials — the second in the three sets of human trials required before the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will consider a new drug for approval.

"Phase 3 starts around 2017, and it will take four to five years to finish. So that will put it at early 2021 for FDA approval."

Posted: 3/31/2016 3:26:00 PM

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Heroin overdoses will now be considered homicides, coroner says

From PennLive:

Drug deaths in Lycoming County attributed to an overdose of heroin now are ruled homicides.

Coroner Charles E. Kiessling said Wednesday it is time to stop dancing around the issue and "call it what it is."

He now lists homicide as the manner of death on death certificates in cases where heroin has been determined to be the cause.

"If you are selling heroin to someone and they die, isn't that homicide?" he asked.

Calling it accidental down plays the severity of the situation, he said, noting there were approximately two dozen drug overdose deaths in the county last year.

The National Association of Medical Examiners says coroners have the discretion to call overdose deaths homicide or accidental, she said. They meet the definition of death at the hands of another, she said.

Posted: 3/28/2016 9:17:00 AM

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Heroin Epidemic Is Yielding to a Deadlier Cousin: Fentanyl

From The New York Times:

Fentanyl, which looks like heroin, is a powerful synthetic painkiller that has been laced into heroin but is increasingly being sold by itself — often without the user’s knowledge. It is up to 50 times more powerful than heroin and up to 100 times more potent than morphine. A tiny bit can be fatal.

In some areas in New England, fentanyl is now killing more people than heroin. In New Hampshire, fentanyl alone killed 158 people last year; heroin killed 32. (Fentanyl was a factor in an additional 120 deaths; heroin contributed to an additional 56.)

Fentanyl represents the latest wave of a rolling drug epidemic that has been fueled by prescription painkillers, as addicts continue to seek higher highs and cheaper fixes.

Nationally, the total number of fentanyl drug seizures reported in 2014 by forensic laboratories jumped to 4,585, from 618 in 2012. More than 80 percent of the seizures in 2014 were concentrated in 10 states: Ohio, followed by Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey, Kentucky, Virginia, Florida, New Hampshire and Indiana.

It was only last March that the Drug Enforcement Administration issued a nationwide alert about fentanyl, saying that overdoses were “occurring at an alarming rate throughout the United States and represent a significant threat to public health and safety.”

Its chief characteristic is that it is fast acting.

Joanne Peterson, executive director of Learn to Cope, a statewide support network for families involved with addiction, said fentanyl works so quickly that there is often little time to administer naloxone, which reverses the effects of an overdose.

“At least with heroin, there is a chance that if someone relapses, they can get back into recovery,” she said. But with fentanyl, she said, it is only a matter of moments before an addict can be dead.

Posted: 3/28/2016 9:05:00 AM

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Four Things You Need to Know About Molly

From the influence:

Thanks to a string of name-checks by pop stars like Miley Cyrus, Madonna and Kanye West, as well as several tragic deaths at music festivals, ”molly”—aka MDMA—has rarely been far from the headlines in recent years.

 Last winter, a bad batch sent nearly a dozen Wesleyan students to the hospital. Then over the summer, a 19-year-old girl became the second young woman to die after taking the drug at Echostage, a Washington, DC music venue. And in 2013, a University of Virginia student passed away after taking molly—the same weekend two Electric Zoo attendees died after reportedly taking the drug.

 Let’s keep some perspective: Despite its potential to make people sick, it’s also important to remember that the majority of partiers popping molly across the globe don’t end up in the hospital. But why is it that some do?

 “The only people we see either through the emergency room or arrests are people having some kind of significant adverse effect, so we don’t really know what percentage of people who use it end up with these adverse effects,” says Dr. Barry Logan, a toxicologist who has studied molly.

 His insight, along with the published research, dispelled four common misconceptions about the popular party drug.

 1. Molly is not pure MDMA

Dr. Logan swabbed the saliva of 60 attendees who said they took molly at Miami’s Ultra music festival last year, and the results were damning: Only about 17% had ingested actual MDMA.

 Of those 60 people, about 35% had taken ethylone; 25% had taken methylone, and 13% had taken Alpha-PVP. These are all new psychoactive substances similar to MDMA, with A-PVP having more stimulant effects than methylone and ethylone. These newer drugs were, Dr. Logan says, synthesized in response to the prohibition of MDMA. And now they’re routinely passed off as MDMA.

 2. Deaths aren’t always the result of overdose

 Although higher doses of MDMA (and the synthetic cathinones often sold as MDMA) are generally considered riskier, low doses of MDMA can be dangerous too. A 2001 study in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that while most MDMA-related “serious toxicity or fatality” involves blood levels of MDMA 40 times higher than the typical recreational dose, some fatalities involved doses considered “normal” among recreational users.

“With any drug and with MDMA and some of these substitutes, you absolutely can overdose on them if you take enough,” Dr. Logan says, “but I would say the adverse effects are typically not because people are overdosing. It’s because they’re taking it in a pattern of intensive use—they have some pre-existing risk factor [like a cardiac disease], or they’re taking it in an environment where they’re not hydrating or it’s already hot and they’re increasing their risk.”

 3. The club might not be the best place for molly

 The idea of using molly might evoke a crowd of pulsating partiers illuminated by a club’s light show. But taking molly in a hot, crowded club where water is only accessible behind the bar is a practice with plenty of negatives.

 Dr. Harold Kalant, author of the Canadian study noted earlier, wrote that “perhaps the most dangerous form of toxicity induced by ‘ecstasy’ is a hyperplexic pattern of toxicity that closely resembles heatstroke.”

 Most strikingly, this particularly dangerous reaction to MDMA “has become increasingly frequent since the adoption of MDMA by participants in raves.” MDMA increases body temperature a bit—but dancing in a hot crowd without hydrating greatly exacerbates this effect.

4. The “comedown” is heavily influenced by external factors

 The molly “comedown” is such a dreaded part of the experience that some users find it can sully the high, making them too anxious about how they’ll feel once the molly wears off to relax and enjoy their roll.

 Combining molly with other drugs and alcohol, a predisposition to mental illness, lack of sleep, or the simple fact of going from high to sober have all been linked to negative mood after a roll.
 

Posted: 2/9/2016 3:04:00 PM

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Three arrested in Paris over 'devil's breath' drug that turns victims into willing 'zombies'

From The Telegraph (UK):

Police have seized two Chinese women and a man in Paris suspected of using a powerful Colombian drug dubbed "the devil’s breath" that turns victims into “zombies” devoid of free will and rob them.

It is thought the three are part of an international Triad-style criminal gang running a multimillion-pound operation around the planet.

The women, aged 42 and 59, approached strangers in Paris’ 20th arrondissement and blew the substance into their faces. It is thought to contain scopolamine, a hazardous drug extracted from a South American tree related to deadly nightshade.

In strong doses it is lethal.

Paris’ judicial police believe the Chinese suspects administered the substance on “dozens” of victims in the French capital in the first reported case of such crimes.

"They managed to isolate their victims, then got them to breathe in a mixture of plants on the grounds they had powerful curative qualities – even protecting them from misfortune.”

Once they inhaled, all the victims recounted falling into a kind of “hypnotic state under the total sway of their handlers,” said the investigative source.

“They then took advantage by getting the victims to take them to their home, where they asked them to put all their jewellery and money into a bag and hand it over to them.”

Scopolamine is made from the seeds of a tree called Borrachero – roughly translated as “drunken binge” – which blooms with deceptively beautiful white and yellow flowers. It is mainly produced in Colombia via a chemical process that results in a white powder resembling cocaine.

Daily marijuana use among U.S. college students highest since 1980

From Michigan News:

Daily marijuana use among the nation's college students is on the rise, surpassing daily cigarette smoking for the first time in 2014.

A series of national surveys of U.S. college students, as part of the University of Michigan's Monitoring the Future study, shows that marijuana use has been growing slowly on the nation's campuses since 2006.

Daily or near-daily marijuana use was reported by 5.9 percent of college students in 2014—the highest rate since 1980, the first year that complete college data were available in the study. This rate of use is up from 3.5 percent in 2007. In other words, one in every 17 college students is smoking marijuana on a daily or near-daily basis, defined as use on 20 or more occasions in the prior 30 days.

Other measures of marijuana use have also shown an increase: The percent using marijuana once or more in the prior 30 days rose from 17 percent in 2006 to 21 percent in 2014. Use in the prior 12 months rose from 30 percent in 2006 to 34 percent in 2014. Both of these measures leveled in 2014.

In addition, the use of synthetic marijuana (also called K-2 or spice) has been dropping sharply since its use was first measured in 2011. At that time, 7.4 percent of college students indicated having used synthetic marijuana in the prior 12 months; by 2014 the rate had fallen to just 0.9 percent, including a significant decline in use in 2014. One reason for the decline in synthetic drug use is that an increasing number of young people see it as dangerous.

Cigarette smoking continued to decline among the nation's college students in 2014, when 13 percent said they had smoked one or more cigarettes in the prior 30 days, down from 14 percent in 2013 and from the recent high of 31 percent in 1999—a decline of more than half. As for daily smoking, only 5 percent indicated smoking at that level, compared with 19 percent in 1999—a drop of nearly three fourths in the number of college students smoking daily.

Unfortunately, the appreciable declines in cigarette smoking have been accompanied by some increases in the use of other forms of tobacco or nicotine. Smoking tobacco using a hookah (a type of water pipe) in the prior 12 months rose substantially among college students, from 26 percent in 2013 to 33 percent in 2014.

In 2014, the use of e-cigarettes in the past 30 days stood at 9.7 percent, while use of flavored little cigars stood at 9.8 percent, of regular little cigars at 8.6 percent and of large cigars at 8.4 percent. The study will continue tracking the extent to which these alternate forms of tobacco use are changing in popularity, not only among college students, but also among their age peers not in college and among secondary school students.

Posted: 9/1/2015 3:38:00 PM

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